L. Yves Fortier | The Canadian Encyclopedia


L. Yves Fortier

L. Yves Fortier PC, CC, OQ, trial lawyer, arbitrator, corporate director, diplomat (born 11 September 1935 in Québec City, QC).

L. Yves Fortier PC, CC, OQ, trial lawyer, arbitrator, corporate director, diplomat (born 11 September 1935 in Québec City, QC). L. Yves Fortier is a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations (1988–92). One of the top arbitrators in the world, he has had a long association with law firm Ogilvy Renault, serving as its chair from 1992 to 2008. He is a leader in international arbitration cases, and was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, from 1984 to 1989. In 2013, he became a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees the performance of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). He is a former governor of McGill University and sits on Historica Canada’s Board of Directors.

Early Life and Education

L. Yves Fortier was born in Québec City. He received a bachelor’s degree from Université de Montréal in 1955 and a Bachelor of Civil Law from McGill University in 1958. He then went to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and received a Bachelor of Letters (in law). He was called to the Québec Bar in 1961.

Legal Career Overview

An expert in commercial, competition and corporate law, L. Yves Fortier is recognized as one of the top arbitrators in the world. He had an almost 50-year association with the Montréal-based firm Ogilvy Renault, where he was chair from 1992 to 2008. He opted to leave in 2011 when the firm merged with the London-based Norton Rose, based on possible conflicts of interest with Norton Rose’s clients. In 2012, he established an independent practice as an international arbitrator; while his office is located in Montréal, he is also a member arbitrator with Arbitration Place in Toronto and with 20 Essex Street in London, England. From 2012 to 2015 he was chair of the World Bank’s Sanctions Board, working to combat corruption and fraud in projects funded by the World Bank.

Leading Arbitrator

Between 1984 and 1989, Fortier was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which sits in The Hague, Netherlands, and seeks to resolve disputes arising from international agreements. Fortier has also served as chair, president, sole arbitrator or co-arbitrator on numerous international arbitration councils, including the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (Paris), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the Hong Kong International Arbitration Court (HKIAC), the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), and the American Arbitration Association, among many others.

Notable Decisions

L. Yves Fortier was the counsel before the International Court of Justice at The Hague in the Canada–US Gulf of Maine Maritime Boundary Case in 1984. This hearing decided to give equal control over the Gulf of Maine to the United States and to Canada, a decision that was vital to Canada’s fishing interests in that region.

Fortier was also the lead counsel for the Government of Canada in the Supreme Court of Canada Reference concerning Québec in 1998. This decision came three years after a referendum vote in Québec had very closely rejected separation from Canada. The Court found that “Québec could not, despite a clear referendum result, purport to invoke a right of self-determination to dictate the terms of a proposed secession to the other parties of the federation.” It also determined that Québec was not a colonial people, or an oppressed people, and so it did not enjoy the international legal right to unilateral secession. Such a decision discouraged separatists from seeking another popular vote in favour of independence. (See also Clarity Act.)

Fortier was the chair of a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in a July 2014 decision that found the Russian government had “breached its international obligations under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) by destroying the Yukos Oil Company and appropriating its assets.” The tribunal awarded $50 billion in damages to Yukos shareholders, the largest decision ever in international arbitration. The award covered the value of the claimants’ shares in Yukos, the value of lost dividends and interest on both. The case received considerable international attention, as the Russian government had previously claimed that Yukos was a criminal organization and sentenced its head, Mikhail Khordokovsky, to almost 10 years in prison.

Diplomatic Career

From 1988 to 1992, L. Yves Fortier took leave from his law practice to become Canada’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations (UN). He served as Canada’s representative to the Security Council in 1989 and 1990, including a term as president of the Council.

Fortier succeeded Stephen Lewis as ambassador to the UN, and continued his predecessor’s commitment to the UN as a vehicle to enhance peace and international diplomacy. This engagement with the UN was a key principle of Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government, which volunteered Canadian soldiers to participate in new peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, and Iran and Iraq (such operations ultimately led to UN peacekeeping winning the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize as an institution).

Fortier’s time at the UN was also marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the First Gulf War in 1991. The UN was, by many accounts, reinvigorated by the end of the Cold War, and Canada’s foreign policies reflected this as well. Fortier maintained that Canada’s active involvement with the UN allowed it a space in which to act independently from the US. He also argued that no individual government had the capacity to manage all of the problems that the UN seeks to address, and argued that it was better to focus energies on restructuring the UN, rather than abandoning it as a world body.

Corporate Involvement

L. Yves Fortier was the governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1997 until February 2006, when Jerry Zucker staged a takeover. Fortier then became the chair of the Board of Directors at Alcan Inc. He has also been a director on the Board of Nortel. While at Alcan, he oversaw the acquisition of Pechiney Group, which made Alcan the world’s largest aluminum manufacturer, and its merger with Rio Tinto, to become Rio Tinto Alcan, which is headquartered in Montréal.

Security Intelligence Review Committee

In 2013, L. Yves Fortier was appointed to both the Queen’s Privy Council and the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). The latter is the independent review body that reports to the Parliament of Canada on the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). The SIRC was created to examine past operations and to investigate any complaints brought against CSIS. Fortier is one of five members of this committee.

Community Involvement and Recognition

From 1975 to 1985, L. Yves Fortier was governor of McGill University as well as director of the Montréal Neurological Institute (1975–85) and the Montréal Clinical Research Institute (1978–83). In 2004, he was a mentor at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. Fortier serves on the Board of Historica Canada. He is also the namesake of the L. Yves Fortier Chair in International Arbitration and International Commercial Law at McGill University.

Honours and Awards

Officer, Order of Canada (1984)
Honorary Doctor of Laws, Law Society of Upper Canada (1989)
Companion, Order of Canada (1991)
Médaille d’Or, Québec Bar (1992)
Honorary Doctor of Laws, Acadia University (1992)
Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of British Columbia (1993)
President’s Award, Canadian Bar Association (1993)
Honorary Doctor of Laws, Université de Montréal (2000)
Honorary Doctor of Commerce, Ryerson University (2004)
Honorary Doctor of Laws, McGill University (2005)
Officer, National Order of Québec (2006)
Advocatus Emeritus, Québec Bar (2007)
Honorary Doctor of International Studies, Université Laval (2008)
Walter S. Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award, International Commission of Jurists (2008)
Queen’s Privy Council (2013)